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Jessie Raymond: It’s best to rely on the yard sale pros

A few weeks ago, I came home to find sitting on my porch a well-seasoned, 14-inch cast iron skillet and lid — just what I had been wanting for the wood cook stove this winter.
My friends Knick and Knack had scored again.
If you’ve ever held, or even been to, a yard sale in Addison County, no doubt you’ve seen them: two determined women with a budget, a list and an uncanny ability to find treasures among the trash, not just for themselves but for all their friends and family.
They go to yard sales so the rest of us don’t have to.
It’s not that I’m opposed to yard sales. They’re a great way for people to rehome their unwanted stuff, on the premise that everyone likes a good deal. If the price is low enough, strangers will fistfight over a dented electric hand mixer with only one beater. It’s magical, really.
A careful shopper can find valuable items. But I’m easily overwhelmed. Yard sales, featuring everything from garment racks to plastic cereal bowls with teeth marks on them, paralyze me. Do I want this broken lamp? Do I need another dish drainer? What is this metal rod with a little hook thing on the end, and who is going to pay $2.50 for it?
Yard sales lend themselves to browsing and daydreaming, both dangerous habits. I find myself contemplating the oddest of purchases because, who knows, maybe these 1970s drinking glasses with the orange and green flowers on them are actually kitschy in a good way. And this filing cabinet — well, sure, it’s rusty and the bottom drawer doesn’t open, but with a coat of paint it could be just the thing for the corner of the office. And it’s only $3.
I’m weak.
To prevent bad buying decisions, I often talk myself out of stopping at yard sales. Before I find a place to park, I convince myself that I shouldn’t spend the money. There probably won’t be anything there that I need, and if I find something I like, I’ll probably never use it. And, anyway, if it’s so great, why is someone getting rid of it?
Thanks to this attitude, I have narrowly avoided over a dozen yard sales this year alone.
But once in a while, I can’t help myself. I have this crazy idea that among the open packs of pipe cleaners and the faded plastic cake keepers, I’ll come across a hidden gem, maybe a somewhat ugly $1 art-glass vase that turns out to be a rare Tiffany piece worth $30,000. (Note: I watch a lot of “Antiques Roadshow.”)
It hasn’t happened yet.
Knick and Knack, unlike me, know how to work a good yard sale, and they enjoy the pursuit. Using Addy Indy classifieds, Craigslist, Front Porch Forum and the ability to sniff out a yard sale from 5 miles away, they spend most Saturdays during the warmer months cruising the county in search of the best finds. And they get results.
In addition to notifying their nearest and dearest of anything that might be of interest based on that person’s hobbies and home décor preferences, they take requests, hunting down desired items with a level of specificity that astounds me. Looking for a pair of insulated hip waders, men’s size 14? A set of almost-new snow tires to fit a 2002 Camry? A replacement lid for a Cuisinart WhipMaster Pro III blender?
Tell Knick and Knack. With their keen eyes and shopping stamina, they will track down whatever you need.
This past Saturday morning, I got a text from Knack, alerting me to a nearby yard sale displaying a stash of yarn and fiber that she knew would appeal to me, a knitter and spinner. She even sent pictures.
A half hour later, I came away from the sale with two bags of alpaca fiber and wool. (More importantly, I resisted buying five other bags of fiber, 37 skeins of yarn and a metal rod with a little hook thing on the end, all of which, in that moment, I felt I should have on hand in case of emergencies.)
Knick and Knack are, of course, planning to hit more yard sales this weekend, so I’m asking them to keep an eye out for two things: (1) a small rectangular basket to go on the back of my downstairs toilet; and (2) a somewhat ugly $1 art-glass vase that says Tiffany on the bottom.
If anyone can find them, it’ll be Knick and Knack.

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